Six Gauchos Honored by Big West Conference

May 31, 2006

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Junior shortstop Chris Valaika has been named to the 2006 All-Big West Conference first team.

Senior Matt Emerick, juniors Robbie Blauer and Justin Segal and sophomore Alden Carrithers each nabbed spots on the second team while freshman Chris McMurray was awarded honorable mention honors.

The Gauchos finished 26-28 overall and 9-12 in the Big West to finish tied for fifth.

Valaika, who spent nearly the whole 2005 season on the sidelines with a knee injury, rebounded and was UCSB's second-best hitter in terms of batting average, finishing with a .335 mark. The Valencia, Calif. native batted four-for-five with a home run, two of his team and Big West-best 57 RBI and four runs scored against Hawaii-Hilo on April 1. In addition, Valaika finished three-for-five with three runs scored, seven RBI and two of his team-leading ten home runs against UC Davis on May 21.

Valaika had a total of fourteen multiple RBI games in 2006 and twenty-two multiple hit performances en route to his team-high 76 hits on the year. The shortstop also strung together a ten-game (May 6-May 21) and two eight-game (February 7-February 25 and April 13-April 25) hitting streaks this season.

Emerick, a local product from Santa Barbara, Calif., finished his four-year Gaucho career with a bang, raising his average from .289 to .325 in the last ten games of the season. Over that stretch, Emerick had a hit in all ten games and batted an astonishing .477 (21-44) with five doubles, a triple, nine RBI and ten runs scored. With his team and Big West-leading fourth triple of the year, and ninth of his career, on May 21 against UC Davis, Emerick moved into the Top-10 on the Gaucho career records list in that category.

Blauer, who was the hottest of the Gaucho hitters at the end of the 2006 campaign, closed with a .332 batting average after toting a .290 batting average just ten games prior to the end of the season. The Huntington Beach, Calif. native batted a scorching .487 (19-39) with a home run, six doubles, ten RBI and fourteen runs scored over the last ten games of the season. Blauer also tallied ten-game (May 6-May 21) and eight-game (March 30-April 9) hitting streaks on the year.

Segal, who stepped into the Gaucho closer role, racked up seven saves in a Big West-high thirty-six appearances. The submariner from Calabasas, Calif. finished the year with a 5-3 record and a 2.29 ERA, ranking him second in the Big West and in the Top-50 in the country in that category. In his final 5.1 inning pitched, Segal allowed no runs on four hits. In addition, Segal was the only Big West pitcher, with enough innings pitched to qualify for statistical reference, to not give up a home run in 2006.

Carrithers, a native of Portland, Ore., started the year extremely hot and maintained that scorch throughout the 2006 campaign, finishing with a team-best .342 batting average. The leadoff hitter accumulated a .465 on-base percentage, second only to Long Beach State's Evan Longoria who amassed a .468 percentage. Carrithers' sixty runs scored was tops in the Big West. Not only did he score often, Carrithers drove in 30 runs of his own, placing him second on the Gauchos in that category. From April 13 to May 5, Carrithers rode a twelve-game hitting streak--the longest of any Gaucho this season. In addition, the sophomore racked up nineteen multiple hit games, including five games with three or more hits.

McMurray, a freshman from Mission Viejo, Calif. found time in 41 games for the Gauchos in 2006, starting 28. In 99 at bats, McMurray batted .293 with a double, a home run, twelve RBI and nineteen runs scored. The strong-armed backstop was instrumental in filling the void that was left when starter Matt McColgan went down to injury on April 7 against UC Riverside.

Cal State Fullerton, the 2006 Big West champion, claimed the top three honors in the Big West Conference with sophomore right-hander Wes Roemer receiving the nod for Big West Pitcher of the Year, head coach George Horton nabbing Big West Coach of the Year honors and senior second baseman Justin Turner sharing Big West Co-Player of the Year with Longoria.

Also earning All-Big West accolades were freshmen Danny Espinosa of Long Beach State and Scott Gorgen of UC Irvine. Espinosa received Big West Freshman Player of the Year honors, while Gorgen's performance on the mound earned him Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year.

Cal State Fullerton landed seven players on the first team while runner-up Long Beach State placed two players on the elite squad. Cal Poly and UC Riverside also had two players honored and Pacific tallied one.